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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Guyana: Two dead, five injured in Lusignan Prison protest

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TWO inmates at the Lusignan Prison Holding Bay were shot dead and five others injured during a rowdy protest on Saturday.
The dead inmates were identified as Earl Graham, 51, who was sentenced to three months imprisonment for malicious wounding, assault and resisting arrest and Winston Herbert, 21, who was in custody for rape.

Five other inmates were injured; two are at the Georgetown Public Hospital and three at the Lusignan Prison. Their conditions have been listed as stable.
Director of Prisons, Gladwin Samuels, said the protest was brought to the attention of the facility administrators who engaged the prisoners to hear their concerns and to offer remedy where possible.

Director of Prisons, Gladwin Samuels
However, Samuels said the prisoners refused to engage the administrators and demanded to see Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn.
“This standoff continued unto 12:30 hours but when attempts were made to distribute the midday meal the prisoners continued their refusal and increased their demand to see the minister,” the prison director related.

He explained that this resulted in a visit from Minister Benn and Health Minister, Dr. Frank Anthony at the prison at about 13:15 hours.
“The ministers were loudly cheered and welcomed on entering the facility. They commenced a discussion with nominated representatives of the prisoners from Holding Bay Two. During this engagement all the prisoners appeared calm and those being engaged appeared receptive,” the director said.

Concerns surrounding the extensive timelines between court hearings and remand, among other issues were raised with the ministers, who committed to address the issues within their scope of work. They also informed the prisoners that the issues within the remit of the courts were outside their mandate but would be brought to the attention of the relevant authorities.

“The issue of overcrowding and the risk of exposure to the COVID-19 pandemic due to recent positive test returns among inmates were also raised. The response was generally well received but during the subsequent discussion by the ministers with inmates of Holding Bay One, some prisoners from Bays Two, Three and Four became aggressive and began throwing missiles which caused the ministers to end the engagement and exit the confines of the compound,” Samuels said.
After the ministers exited the main gate, he said the situation rapidly degenerated and became riotous with some prisoners scaling the inner fence of the Holding Bay, entering the restricted area and attacking prison officers within the compound, who fled for their safety.

“After the officers left the main compound, the situation rapidly deteriorated into mass disorder with inmates rushing the main gate in a bid to break same. In response to situation and in a bid to contain same, ranks posted within the towers discharged several shots in the general direction of the gate which resulted in the injury of seven inmates and restoration of relative calm to the situation,” Samuels said.
Following the return to order, the director said that the injured prisoners were extracted and initially attended to by medical personnel on the ground. Two of them were sent for further treatment at the Georgetown Public Hospital corporation. Three inmates continued to be attended to at the Lusignan facility while two were pronounced dead.

In a recent interview, Samuels had also said provisions are being made for more inmates to be tested following the confirmation of two positive COVID-19 cases at the Lusignan Prison.

Principal among them is the training of the doctors of the Guyana Prison Service to effectively administer the COVID-19 test to the inmates.
The prisons director had said that despite taking all precautions, two prisoners tested positive for the disease last week
“The circumstances under which the two prisoners contracted the virus are presently unknown, and contact tracing has begun. All steps are being taken to segregate persons with whom they came into contact. Resources are being gathered to prevent further spread,” the prisons director had said.
He noted that all persons who are exhibiting signs and symptoms of COVID-19 will be examined and undergo the standard operating procedures outlined by the Ministry of Health.

It was also pointed out that the steps taken over the last few months to prevent the spread of the virus will be revisited and expanded.)

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